With most of the opinion polls and surveys predicting a victory for the Bharatiya Janata Party in the Assembly polls in Rajasthan, all eyes are on Vasundhara Raje, the president of her party in the state and also its CM candidate for 2013 polls. If Raje is able to lead her party to victory and trounce the Congress in the process, then she would become the chief minister of the state for the second time. Incidentally, she was the first women CM of Rajasthan.
Born on 8 March 1953 in Mumbai, she is the daughter of Vijayaraje Scindia and Jivajirao Scindia, Maharaja of Gwalior and members of the Scindia royal Maratha family. She holds a degree in Economics and Political Science from Sophia College. She entered politics in 1984 and became a member of the Rajasthan Assembly in 1985. In 2003 she won from Jhalrapatan, led BJP to power and became the CM of the state for the first time, bagging 120 of the 200 seats in the state. But he party lost the 2008 Assembly elections, winning only 78 seats and the Congress came to power. However, she retained her seat of Jhalrapatan.
It was said that internal strife in the state unit and Raje`s handling of certain key issues and governance problems probably led to the defeat of the BJP. However, she took it in her stride, accepting the people`s verdict and had said then that her party would prove a good opponent to ensure that the state`s development continues. She became the Leader of Opposition in the Rajasthan Legislative Assembly.
Raje has also been a Member of Parliament and became an MP for the first time in 1989. She was the Union Minister of State, External Affairs from 1998-1999 and held various portfolios at the Centre till January 2003 in the NDA government headed by Atal Bihari Vajpayee.
In order to connect with the masses, she launched the `Suraj Sankalp Yatra` in April this year and called upon the people to make collective efforts to throw the Congress out of the power and to make a "new Rajasthan". In her rallies she has taken on the Congress and has blamed the Ashok Gehlot government for failing to address the concerns of the farmers and the youth. She has also hit out at the ruling party for the deteriorating law and order situation in the state and the growing communal clashes. The yatra ended in July and covered over 200 places in the seven divisions of the state.
Raje`s campaigning has got a fillip in recent times with the Gujarat Chief Minister and BJP`s PM candidate for 2014 General Elections Narendra Modi addressing election rallies in
Rajasthan and taking on the Congress government in the state and the UPA government at the Centre on a host of issues like price rise, inflation, corruption and scams.
A key factor which seems to have worked in favour of Raje is that Gehlot seems to have lost the backing of two key communities, the Jats and Thakur Rajputs. On the other hand, the BJP has tried to do a balancing act and attempted to please all the dominant castes in Rajasthan in the list of candidate that it has released. The Jats and the Rajputs have been given a substantial number of tickets.
However, the road in her quest to come back to power and become the CM of Rajasthan for the second time has not been smooth for Raje. She was named the new chief of BJP`s state unit in February this year and since then factionalism has been reported time and again within the BJP. Her style of functioning has drawn criticism from her colleagues and she has been accused of being undemocratic, so much so that the RSS was forced to intervene and sort out the differences within the party. Senior BJP leader Ghanshyam Tiwari, a leading Brahmin leader, was one such leader who had taken on Raje. Notably, as per reports, earlier, the RSS too was opposed to Raje`s name for the top post in the state. Another senior leader Gulab Chand Kataria was also at loggerhead with her. In order to placate him, the BJP named Kataria as the Leader of the Opposition in the state Assembly.
Former BJP spokesperson Sunil Bhargava is also said to be against Raje. He had apparently told BJP president Rajnath Singh in a letter that Raje was encouraging factionalism within the party and party activists were feeling ignored and confused about their role in the upcoming Assembly elections. However, with the dust settling down and Raje emerging as the choice of the BJP and the RSS to be the CM candidate, it seems that in all likelihood the stage is set for her to return to power for the second time and occupy the hot seat in Rajasthan once again.